May 2, 2023 10:28 PM - Subscribe

When a merchant stumbles into an inn, desperately looking for Cyrion, the other patrons can't help him locate the legendary hero--but they all have a story to tell.

A sword-and-sorcery collection with seven stories and a novella from award winning British author Tanith Lee.
posted by mark k (2 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've had limited exposure to Tanith Lee but after reading these stories I'll be looking at some of her other stuff. It's dated in some ways, and the hero is so ridiculously over the top competent, good and virtuous that you just start rolling with it.

I don't usually do this on fanfare, but I'm copying a slightly edited version of my goodreads review:

Cyrion is a peerless swordsman and adventurer. Women adore him, men admire or (if they are of weak character) envy and hate him for his goodness. He wades into danger for the challenge, eschewing material rewards. He wanders a fantasy version of the Levant, a fair-skinned, blue-eyed westerner trained in the mystic traditions of the nomadic desert people. (It's impossible not to picture T. E. Lawrence, or rather Peter O'Toole. Indeed, in my head there must be a film version of these stories archived somewhere, shot by a second crew after the Lawrence of Arabia went home, like the Mexican Dracula. But I digress.)

This should all make for a horribly boring set of stories, but the half-dozen short stories in this collection are quite entertaining. They fall squarely on the weird fiction and horror side of the sword-and-sorcery tradition, and Lee (who I haven't really read before) is great at designing a frightening setting and creepy mood. Pretty much every one follows the formula of Cyrion seeing what is (to the reader) an obvious trap, walking into it, finding it far worse than expected, and then sliding out of it with some judo-like move. There's an almost Columbo-esque quality to the stories, as most of the creativity goes into creating a hate-worthy, dangerous foe and putting them in strong position, to be outsmarted by a smirking, amiable hero who is on to them from the start. These work in a way they shouldn't.

The exception is the one novella-length entry, which is (as you might expect) a bit too much of everything long before it's done. Buy the book, skip the long story.
posted by mark k at 10:35 PM on May 2

Thank you for posting this to fanfare. Tanith Lee's a classic pulp fantasy author that I'd never gotten around to reading.

I don't have anything interesting to contribute because my impression of the book was exactly yours - the short stories are formulaic but great fun & the novella is drawn out and unsatisfying. But I wouldn't have bought this collection if you hadn't drawn it to my attention, so thank you.
posted by Lorc at 7:06 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]

« Older From: Season 2 (Full Season)...   |  Ted Lasso: We'll Never Have Pa... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments